Newcrest upbeat on outlook

Miner to restore reputation, strengthen balance sheet after a 'tough year'.

Newcrest Mining (NCM) chairman Don Mercer said the outlook for gold is positive and the company will focus on restoring its reputation and strengthening its balance sheet, despite describing 2013 as a "tough year" for Newcrest and its shareholders.

In an address to the miner's annual general meeting, Mr Mercer said the group will focus on delivering reliable, low cost production and is well placed to tackle the complexity of its Papua New Guinea-based Lihir gold mine.

He said the board will focus on positioning the company to generate returns for shareholders in any reasonable external environment, after choosing not to declare a final dividend in fiscal 2013.

Mr Mercer said despite the group's reputation taking a battering by the end of fiscal 2013, Newcrest had produced 2.1 million ounces of gold and delivered major projects on schedule and within eight% of budget.

The miner faces a significant hurdle later in the day when it puts a series of resolutions, including its remuneration report, to shareholders for approval.

Ahead of the AGM, fund manager Allan Gray, proxy advisers Ownership Matters and Kolesnikoff Governance, as well as the Australian Shareholders’ Association all advocated for a vote against the remuneration report, fuelling speculation Newcrest was poised to earn its first strike on executive pay.

The meeting also follows soon after Newcrest announced a series of key transition arrangements for its senior management.

The miner appointed director Peter Hay as chairman, replacing Don Mercer after he steps down in December, and said it expects Sandeep Biswas to succeed Greg Robinson as chief executive officer in the second half of calendar 2014.

Troubling year for miner

It has been a troubling year for Newcrest, posting an annual net loss of $5.8 billion on the back of more than $6 billion in asset writedowns and restructuring costs and a disclosure scandal.

The company then announced that chief executive Greg Robinson's annual pay would be cut by 27% to $2.73 million, down from $3.69 million in the previous year as his short-term bonuses were reduced by $700,000.

The 2013 annual report showed Newcrest's executive managers also had their pay cut in 2013, but Finance Director Gerard Bond's overall pay increased, from $1.64 million to $1.73 million.

In addition, The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is investigating accusations that Newcrest selectively briefed analysts ahead of the original writedowns announcement.

An independent review of Newcrest's disclosure and investor relations practices was subsequently unable to find a systemic failure in the miner's interaction with the market.

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